A View from the Bridge: Themes & Analysis

Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Virginia has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Development and a Ph.D. in English

Arthur Miller's 'A View from the Bridge' describes the social problems encountered by both established and recent immigrants coming to America to seek work. Written in 1955, the play portrays issues relevant to today's culture.

Background of the Play

Well-known American playwright Arthur Miller wrote A View from the Bridge in 1955, but initial reception was rather negative. After revising the script to minimize the incestuous and homosexual issues, the play premiered in 1956. Revivals over the years have done well, making this one of Miller's most popular plays.

The Story

Eddie Carbone, his wife Beatrice, and his 17-year-old niece Catherine are the central characters in the play. Their life in the working-class, largely ethnic Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, is disrupted when two cousins from Italy arrive illegally in America. The two immigrants, the young and dapper Rodolpho and the older Marco, plan to stay with the Carbones while working on the docks so they can send money home.

We soon learn that Eddie is extremely protective of his niece Catherine, and nervous about her going about in the world where men will look at her. Eddie and Beatrice adopted their niece as a child when her mother died.

From the beginning, Marco seems serious about working to help his family in Italy, but Rodolpho is more concerned with becoming an American citizen and buying a motorcycle.

Rodopho and his American Dream
scooter riding

Catherine begins to date Rodolpho and immediately problems start to surface. The conflict is compounded when Eddie gets the idea that the younger man may be a homosexual. In addition, Eddie seems almost incestuously jealous of Catherine having a love interest. At one point, he blurts out that he fears that Roldolpho is using her to become a citizen.

Eddie visits one of the area's attorneys, Alfieri, trying to find some legal way to keep the young Italian man from his precious niece. Alfieri tells Eddie there is nothing that can be done unless he wants to report both men as illegal immigrants, which Eddie is reluctant to do. Poor Eddie is caught between honor and ethnic loyalty and his overwhelming love and desire for Catherine.

As the situation gets ever more tense in the Carbone's small apartment, Rodolpho and Catherine discuss getting married. Afraid of her uncle's reaction, she asks Rodolpho privately if he'd consider living in Italy with her after they get married. This he says he will never do, but he does agree to move away from Eddie.

Later that same day, Eddie returns to the apartment to find the two lovers in Catherine's bedroom after they've had sex. He is furious and tells Rodolpho to leave. When Catherine threatens to leave too, her uncle suddenly kisses her passionately. Rodolpho protests that Eddie cannot do that, and then Eddie kisses him as well in order to ''prove'' that Rodolpho is homosexual.

After this incident, Eddie reports the cousins to immigration, and the play moves swiftly to the negative outcome. As Catherine and Rodolpho set their wedding date, they, along with Marco, move upstairs to another apartment.

Soon the immigration officers show up and haul away Marco, Rodolpho, and two other men. Suspecting Eddie's betrayal, Marco breaks away and spits in Eddie's face, cursing his name and accusing him of destroying his family. The neighbors look on as the men are taken away, viewing Eddie with disgust.

The final scene occurs after the two Italian men have been bailed out of jail, and Marco returns to get revenge on Eddie. Both men feel they are fighting for honor and their good names; they struggle in the street as the neighbors look on. Eddie is fatally wounded.

Themes

Honor is a concept that comes up a great deal in this play. The idea of ''family'' is an important part of Italian honor, and this play focuses on its importance and what must be done to protect it.

Marco is willing to sacrifice several years of his life to come to America without his family and work to send back much needed money. As Rodolpho explains it to Catherine, he says that it would never do to bring a new wife from a rich country to a poor country.

Working for Family at Home
Italian village

Coming from Italy, where work is almost impossible to find after World War II, to America is viewed as an honorable sacrifice, though technically often done illegally.

Eddie dies in the end because of the honor he needed to maintain in front of his family and his community. Even though he realizes he was wrong to report the cousins to immigration, once he made the decision to do so, he stood behind it.

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